Oral cancer is a very deadly and debilitating disease. The five year survival rate has changed very little over the decades. Smoking, alcohol, and especially chewing tobacco are still the main causes of oral cancer; however, new research has pointed to another culprit, the HPV virus.
Since oral cancer is usually not painful until the final stages, our office does an oral cancer screen on every patient at their first visit and each subsequent recare visit. The tests we use have been shown to be more effective at finding cancer at an earlier stage than just a visual exam.
We have two different types of exams. One exam involves both using a mouth rinse for a minute and then exposing the mouth tissues to a light source of a particular wavelength looking for cell changes. The other exam uses a light source without a mouth rinse which will pick up areas of blood vessel formation. Either test is painless and takes only a short time to perform. If any areas look suspicious, a brush biopsy can then be performed to rule out any abnormalities.